Friday, July 1, 2016

It's always something

"It's always something, isn't it?" The husband grumbled this to me the other day, and he's not wrong.
It started with a lost driver's license. While we were house-sitting for friends a couple of months ago, I took their dog and the Munchkin on a walk, and decided to call one of my brothers. It was a lovely call, but somewhere along the way the Munchkin decided that she was bored, so she dug into the pouch of the carrier she was in. And then she began dropping the things she found. Bandages (because toddlers, yo), old receipts, and my credit card were all found littering the sidewalks. Not my driver's license. Adding a level of difficulty, I still had my Alaska driver's license. To go straight to a WA license, I would have to re-take the driving test. Annoying. I can get a new AK license from out of state, costing only $5. Not nearly as annoying, but still a hassle. It's one of those minor inconveniences that life is riddled with.
Then, on our road trip to Denver, the car started driving funny on the way home. We realized that it had been quite a while since we got the oil changed, since we drive it so infrequently, so that was the first thing we checked. It was out. We refilled it, and the car drove better, but still not great. We were able to limp home, but the only place either of us wanted to drive it to was a repair shop. The local dealership for our sort of car is conveniently placed so that I was able to bike home, and assure the mechanic that we were in no rush. Biking is our main mode of transport. He looked skeptical, and repeatedly told me to be careful on the roads. Yep, thanks. Got it.
The day I flew out to my family reunion, I texted HusbandX to let him know we'd landed safely. His reply text was that our car is totaled. We have three options: buy another used car (most expensive), get the engine replaced (still hideously expensive), or sell the car for scrap and rely on the use of my parents' vehicle when we need a car (least expensive). It turned out to be a fairly easy answer for us, since neither of us can stand the idea of relying even more on my parents and we shuddered at the thought of getting a different car.
Friends who've gone through this have had good advice for us, as have our families. It's not the end of the world, but it is a giant, expensive hassle. Once again, I thanked our frugal natures for being what they are. We have the cash to pay for it, and it shouldn't set back our house-buying plans at all. Considering that a majority of Americans can't afford even a relatively small car repair, let alone the thousands this will cost us, we are in a good position. I would say we're lucky, but really it's hard work. We've pushed off purchases we'd like to make (the giant scratch/bruise on my leg from the bike wreck caused by my fenders catching my shoes last night is testament to that) in favor of saving for the bigger things. And there are always, always emergencies. It's always something.

The one thing we were not, are not, prepared for, are emergencies which involve long-term expenditures. When I returned from my trip to Maine, I noticed that my cat was suddenly looking dangerously thin. I'd thought, before I left, that he seemed to be losing weight, despite eating well enough, and for the past couple of months he's been using...not his litter box. Seeing how frail he suddenly looked, though, after little more than a week, scared me. Adding in his lethargy and the fact that, suddenly, he could no longer even jump up on our bed, I booked an appointment with the vet.
His diagnosis is the worst of all possible worlds. It's treatable, but at such cost. I don't just mean financially, though that is important, but emotional. He's got diabetes. This was such a shock, since our cat is not fat. He's large, as tall and long as our dog, (we suspect he's part Maine Coon) but except for a couple of months right after we moved down here, he's never been fat. We're sensitive to the fact that being overweight is as bad for our pets as it is for people, so we do our best to regulate their weight well. And we did, getting him back to a healthy weight as soon as we saw it had become a problem. Which makes this diagnosis all the more shocking and horrible.
My sweet kitty, today.
The vet was very clear with us that it's an expensive disease to treat. Aside from all of the treatments he would need in the first six months, and the special diet we'd have to start him on, and the equipment we'd need to buy to treat him, and the number of vet visits we'd have to take him to, if all went well and his diabetes turned out to be well regulated (no guarantees), it would be a maintenance of about $100 per month.
If this was a human member of our family, of course we would do this. But, if it was a human member of our family, we'd also be able to talk about it together. Decisions with pets are never easy because it is we humans who have all the power and responsibility. I cannot ask him what he would prefer. He doesn't know anything except that he doesn't feel well. Extending his life might make me feel better, but would it really be best for him? At best, I would need to give my cat 2-3 injections per day, and get blood samples regularly to test. He would have to go to the vet every few months for checkups, and since my sweet little guy pees in terror when put in his kennel, just the idea of that turns me off. Some cats can handle such treatment with relative equanimity, but ours is not one. He would grow to fear and resent me, and that's unbearable. He's a sweetheart of a cat, gentle and quiet. He likes to bluster occasionally, pretending that he's going to go take out a bird, but he's never killed anything in his life. He loves me because I'm so quiet with him. He snuggles down onto me when I get settled into bed at night, because I'm so still and won't startle him. I won't delude myself into thinking that he would still love me if I had to stick a needle in him twice a day.
Finally, our lives just don't support the amount of care we would have to do. All the monitoring, making sure he got his injections in time, the vet trips...I know we'd fail at it. I have a hard time administering regular medication to myself, let alone poking a needle into my cat on a strict schedule. Between all my other care-taking responsibilities, this would be too much.
Cat-cat and baby, checking each other out.
When all of the factors above are taken into account, our decision for what to do was easy. And yet, it totally wasn't. HusbandX and I are in agreement, but we're not happy about it. With all of my reasoning, a small part of my mind whispers that I'm justifying killing my cat. What a horrible thought. Knowing that he could, maybe, survive, stings my conscience. If we were better people, wouldn't we give him that chance? But, survival is not enough. I don't want to see my poor kitty go through all of this, for his sake. Extending his life, or any life, is not the purpose. Living well is the purpose, and he has done that. He has been an incredible cat, a sweet companion. As parents, we can forgive a lot of faults in any creature which treats our kid well. This cat doesn't have much to forgive, and on top of that he's been amazingly patient with our little chaos maker. For a creature who frightens so easily, that's really saying something. He's never scratched the kiddo, though he's been given plenty of cause. At worst, he hides when he doesn't want to be around her, and no one could fault him for that. When I got the call from the vet, I was petting our cat while the Munchkin watched a movie. While I was hearing his prognosis, she came over to pet the cat and give him a kiss. She loves her cat-cat (as she calls him), and it breaks my heart that she will learn her first lesson on death from him.
This is the cat who always knew I was getting sick before I did, and tried to snuggle me into good health. When I was pregnant, he would lie over my belly, purring. To think of choosing to put him down rather than treat him seems so callous. I will always regret this choice, even though I know it's the right one. There is no easy answer, when no options are good ones.